by Sarcasmo Jones
U.S. District Judge Mary Scriven struck down Florida Governor Rick Scott’s pet project to drug test beneficiaries of the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program in his state last week. The ACLU had filed a lawsuit against the law, which took effect in July 2011, which sent it to the Feds for review. Although Judge Scriven has ruled the measure as unconstitutional, Florida’s Governor says he will appeal the decision.
What exactly is Governor Scott trying to accomplish by drug testing Florida’s poorest residents? Rick Scott claims the measure is for the benefit of taxpayers and families. Scott’s deputy press secretary, Jackie Schutz, said “Governor Scott maintains his position that TANF dollars must be spent on TANF’s purposes: protecting children and getting people back to work.” The ACLU, naturally, deems the law as a punitive measure against welfare recipients in Florida, and a 4th amendment “unreasonable search” violation. Yet others claim that the law was crafted by Scott to increase his own paycheck. A 62 million-dollar chunk of Rick Scott’s fortune is invested in a Florida fast food style chain of walk-in medical clinics called Solantic. If the law had been implemented in Florida, who would be drug testing TANF recipients now?
So, the percentage of drug using, poverty-level Floridians on government assistance must be disproportionately greater than the rest of Florida to warrant this kind of legislation, right? Nope. During the four months that Florida actually tested for drugs, a whopping 108 out of 4,086 (that’s 2.6%) actually tested positive for drugs, and cost the state of Florida an additional $45,780. 1,009 murders were committed in Florida in 2012, which also reported 63,929 aggravated assaults and 37,330 stolen vehicles that same year. (You can read more about Florida crime stats here.) Way to fucking prioritize, Florida. To add insult to injury, the law required the person being tested to pay for their own test, usually around thirty bucks, and be reimbursed later by the state. Thirty dollars is someone’s food money, or gas money, or even an electric bill. These folks do not have disposable income or “walking around money,” and shouldn’t have to go hungry because the state arbitrarily demands a tribute of cash and urine. (Read the New York Times article here.)
How do these people justify forcing the least fortunate among us to suffer the indignity of peeing in a cup to get a little welfare money? Is it fair? Is it justice? Our welfare system is not perfect because there is no way to perfect it. Someone will always find a way to manipulate any system to their advantage. When a poor person does it we call it a crime: they’re cheating. We don’t audit everyone because one guy cheats on his taxes. We don’t stop selling assault rifles when a few hundred children get murdered. We don’t drug test Congress just because one Representative gets caught snorting coke off of a prostitute’s ass. I guess the only real crime here is being poor.
There is a reason that Rick Scott is no longer working at Solantic, and it wasn’t because he retired. He was forced out during an investigation into the company’s fraudulent federal billing practices…with a $10 million severance check and another $300 million in stock. I guess if you’re going to be a criminal, you should get paid for it…and then run for Governor of Florida. If Scott wasn’t fit to run Solantic, what makes him qualified to run the state of Florida? Think about that when you’re peeing in a cup to get your grocery money.